In addition to the awesome name that I can’t get out of my head, Bunratty had plenty to offer. The castle was the highlight, with many stairs leading to many interesting rooms. Unfortunately, most of the rooms were roped off and you could only look at them, but it was fun navigating the castle and going to the tops of the towers. The castle at Bunratty is a cross between the ruins that we love visiting and more modern working palaces that we have been to as well.
The village it is in is a Heritage Village type of place with a real Renaissance Festival feeling. I think it would have been a lot better walking around with a mug of mead! There was a blacksmith, and while he was outside for a photo-op, Brandon and I took turns using the 5 foot bellows that was in the smithy. It was pretty awesome.
We walked around the village, looked at some of the old thatch-roofed houses and got the kids some home-made ice-cream before heading home. Jenn accompanied Shawn and me to the CrabTree pub once again, and we were entertained by the Irish National sport of Hurling being shown on the television. It was a bit of a short day, but everybody enjoyed themselves and we have a road trip ahead of us tomorrow as we head West to Dingle.
We travelled into Amsterdam by train today and wandered about the city. There are lots of shops. bridges over the many canals and a fair number of places to see, but the reason this city is a tourist attraction is obvious almost instantly. Everywhere you walk you can see and more often smell people smoking pot. There is of course the sex trade subculture as well, but aside from the shops that deal in that, there wasn’t much action at 11 a.m. We found ourselves almost immediately in the red light district, but the red lights were off and the streets were open to vehicles etc. We still detoured one street over since the kids were with us.
The city is actually quite spread out, and walking through it is easy to do and quite nice. We ate some famous pancakes, visited a couple of the attractions, and Brandon and I even stopped at a place called “The Beer Temple” for a quick pint of dry red hop. Before leaving, I took a detour to see the seedy underbelly of the city (of course, they don’t think of it that way). The posts that come up out of the ground were up and displaying red lights, preventing motor traffic, and tiny traffic lights were turned to red. It was only around 4:30, but the streets were packed and half of the windows were full. I can only imagine what that place is like at midnight.
The kids all got their souvenirs, and we headed home to stay in our new residence for the night – which turns out to be an actual castle. The castle rooms have been converted to hostel rooms, but everything else is the same (I would guess). It has a large meeting hall, a dining area, the ceilings are huge wooded beams and planks, and there is a large moat separating the castle from the extensive grounds. We didn’t really explore the grounds as it was raining and we are tired of walking trough the rain (on and off all day in Amsterdam). Perhaps tomorrow we will walk around a bit before we head to our next destination.
Grounds, brickwork, art, bedchambers, even the ornate ceilings – these castles (this one actually a palace) really know how to make a normal person feel like a peasant – the bravado of course being the point. They were built with the intention of showing off the riches of the monarch and impressing foreign monarchy or dignitaries. The money that must have been spent at the time is unfathomable. The tapestries with real gold woven into them, the gold and silver plates, and the hand carved stone and woodwork all are incredible reminders that there are some “haves” out there (not that we are “have-nots” mind you, but when compared to this extravagance, few people could compare). The hanging lamps had crowns on top of them, some door handles were crown shaped, and even some of the plates on the doors for the key hole were decorated.
A few rooms in the palace were pretty incredible. The 64 acres of grounds were equally impressive, with hundreds of deer running around (Nate got pretty close to three of them by sneaking through the trees – once they caught wind of him they took off with Nate in hot pursuit), and “Long Water”. Even the hedge maze was pretty cool. The golf course and royal tennis court weren’t open, and we didn’t check out the paddock or horse breeding area.
One thing I noticed today (since it was very cold yet again) is that the palace as a whole is not particularly well insulated. There were a few warm areas, and perhaps they just didn’t have the heat on everywhere, but it was bloody cold in there!
A quick train-ride home, a new beer (purchased by Jenn at the grocery store earlier in the week – malted hops with a burnt kind of taste – Bombardier Golden), and I am ready for bed.
We got an early start, and we never stopped. We ate lunch in a great little restaurant and on the wall there was a poster depicting all of the things you could do or see in Edinburgh. Aside from the Military Tattoo which is only in August, we saw them all – from the palace to the castle, the mountain to the parliament building, and everything else there was to see. Today we even went back to watch the loom in operation. Brandon and I think we have it figured out. By the way, Haggis and chips for lunch – delicious!
We toured the parks and the Parthenon replica, and walked through a spooky old cemetery right at dusk. I think it is fair to say that we have seen the city. Brandon and I even saw the old hanging gallows location!
The highlight could have been climbing the mountain, but Edinburgh castle was very nice too. We had a little tour, saw the crown jewels, and visited an armory. We took lots of pictures (some that we were strictly forbidden to take even), but the camera batteries died on the mountain so we had to rely on the kids iPods – so hopefully we can add an Edinburgh gallery once we transfer all of the photos another day. (Long ride to Isle of Skye tomorrow, so maybe that is something Brandon can do in the car!) Here are a couple we did manage to get though.
Jenn and I each purchased a bottle of beer(#39 and #40) to go with our hostel dinner. One clearly tasted of grapefruit, and the other was a fairly normal, smooth hop flavoured beer.
It must have been a good day; everybody (Jenn included) is asleep in the room (before 9:15), and the lights are still on.
Rent is due today. My bank doesn’t seem to care though. Without getting into too many details, on the phone long distance with my bank in Canada for the better part of 1.5 hours to sort out the wire transfer as for some reason, Lloyds had a ‘block’ on my U.K. account and needed another copy of my VISA in order to accept any transactions. Some Lloyds bank employees were very helpful. Without casting stones or creating enemies both domestic and abroad, let me just say that after 2.5 hours in the bank, I left with enough cash to pay for the B&B and enough money in the account to pay deposit and rent all from the successful deposition of the wire transfer. The “Guarenteed Bank Draft”, made out in Great British Pounds that I deposited the day I opened the account STILL hasn’t cleared. What a fool I was to think that the difficulties I have always had with banks (not you PC Financial – you still rock the casbah!), would stop.
We are official tenants now, and tomorrow after what will likely be 5 round trips in our tiny little rental in order to bring the luggage back and forth, I lay my head down in a new neighbourhood.
On a brighter note, the castle in Rochester is not only beautiful from the outside, but very nice inside as well. Check out Brandon’s photo gallery. Hopefully Jenn will upload a pic or two from the camera to her blog tonight.
Oh! And unfortunately, we will be without telephone or internet service in our new home until the 9th of September! I don’t know where the nearest free wi-fi site will be, but I hope we find one close by.
Today we were tourists. It is the first day where we didn’t really do much that a typical tourist wouldn’t. Sure we bought groceries and looked at a place that is for rent on the island, but for the most part, we were picture snapping tourists – and I think it was just what the doctor ordered. We bought a year pass to the heritage sites – so apparently now we can get into most places for free. I think this will really pay off. Stonehenge and Dover Castle alone, according to Jenn, cost more to get into than the pass cost us.
I still haven’t had a chance to sit down in a beer garden and have a pint. We almost did at the castle (Upnor – photos and details galore on the kids blogs!) today, and Nate was totally into it. He wanted a burger (and so did I!) but we had to get to the grocery store before it closed since this is a long weekend and we were almost completely out of food.
One thing that I thought was kind of nice, just before I went to sleep I took a look out of the window and the Big Dipper was hanging low in the horizon and Arcturus was super bright – brighter than I have ever seen it. No matter where I am (since I’ve never left the Northern Hemisphere), I am always comforted by the fact that the sky never really changes. Reminds me that the world is small, and we are all not so far apart as it seems.
Nice walk with the kids. Very hilly, and we are right on a river. Found a large soccer field and a rugby field. While lifting Clara over the wall I smashed her leg off of the brick. Lots of blood, but she’s okay. Love all of the architecture and creativity with brickwork and roofs/doors/entrance ways. Some really nice stuff.
Later (with Jenn): We saw our first castle today and Nate couldn’t keep from climbing every crevasse in the place. Took lots of pictures. Explored the town and had a pretty great day. Kinda cold out, but lots of fun. Even stopped at a pub for fish and chips. Everybody is exhausted after basically 2 days of being awake.